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  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2022

Religion and Governance in England’s Emerging Colonial Empire, 1601–1698

Palgrave Macmillan


  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

  • Highlights the importance of religion in England's overseas companies the formation of English governmental identity in the seventeenth century

  • Draws on examples from across England's emerging colonial empire

  • Sheds light on the seventeenth-century foundations of imperial governance

Part of the book series: New Transculturalisms, 1400–1800 (NETRANS)

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

About this book

This open access book explores the role of religion in England's overseas companies and the formation of English governmental identity abroad in the seventeenth century. Drawing on research into the Virginia, East India, Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, New England and Levant Companies, it offers a comparative global assessment of the inextricable links between the formation of English overseas government and various models of religious governance across England's emerging colonial empire. While these approaches to governance varied from company to company, each sought to regulate the behaviour of their personnel, as well as the numerous communities and faiths which fell within their jurisdiction. This book provides a crucial reassessment of the seventeenth-century foundations of British imperial governance.


  • Open access
  • British Empire
  • Colonialism
  • Overseas trading companies
  • Religious governance
  • Imperial government


“This important study looks at the central place of religion in the contrasting governance of English overseas companies across the seventeenth century and across the globe, from Boston to Bombay. It identifies three models – pastoral, theocratic and ecumenical – of religious governance and it deepens our understanding of the complex relationship between trade, politics and religion in the development of these companies and the growth of empire.”

—Kenneth Fincham, University of Kent, UK

“With both conceptual precision and an expansive, global field-of-view, Smith reveals the distinctively corporate mechanisms that structured religious encounters in the early modern world and, in the process, places religious governance at the centre of our understanding of seventeenth century English expansion overseas.”

—William Pettigrew, Lancaster University, UK

“This detailed but wide-ranging study shows the important place that religion occupied in the management and reputation of early modern England's overseas companies, both in North America and Asia. It will be a valuable read for anyone wishing to learn about how England established a presence in the wider world.”

—Thomas Leng, University of Sheffield, UK

Authors and Affiliations

  • Faculty of English Language & Literature, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    Haig Z. Smith

About the author

Haig Z. Smith is a Research Associate on the ERC-funded TIDE project (Travel, Transculturality and Identity in Early Modern England, 1550-1700) at the University of Oxford, UK. He has previously published on a number of topics relating to religion and English overseas expansion in the early modern period.  

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)